Review Summary: If we ever have a pangaea party, this album is the soundtrack.
I bite my superlative tongue and voyage to say this anyway: Merriweather Post Pavilion is my favorite album of all time.
For two years prior to the release of MPP, Animal Collective's two most famous prior albums, Feels and Strawberry Jam, sat idle on my iPod, and their songs recorded only a few sporadic plays, each separated by months time. I had acquired the albums from a friend whose taste is not known to stray into pretentiousness or vanity. He assured me of their sonic fortitude and so I trusted him and gladly took them. Anytime I attempted a listen after that, however, I found that Animal Collective only frustrated me; they sounded unlike anything I had ever heard and I didn't get it.
Fast forward to January of this year: A somewhat dingy basement with faux-oak walls, a dingy lamp in the corner with a half-dead lightbulb, four desperate youths, and yes, I loathe to say, some choice substances. Perhaps it is true that it took a transcendental experience to finally absorb what Animal Collective was doing with their music, but that's precisely what happened and Merriweather Post Pavilion hit me like a wall like little else in music ever has. I believe it went like this: I think my friend put MPP on at some point, and I recall being somewhat zoned out, possibly masturbating in my mind to Obama in technicolor and indulging all my liberal philosophies into channels of real life moments whose velocities all equaled zero one after the other, and at some point I stopped - it was at the loopy beginning of "Summertime Clothes" - all thoughts lost, looked up, and said "Wowww! What is this!" My serotonin torrented through my synapses to the tips of my fingers and I reached out and touched it and I laughed in joy, we laughed in joy until we realized how late it was.
That's the context in which I first understood Animal Collective and the first time I met this album. I think the experience was the same for a lot of people with this album and with this band. I think nearly every person who has ever fallen in love with this band has a story to share pertaining to the moment they "found" AC. It's very much in the same way you remember what it was like when you found out the towers came down or when the Red Sox won the World Series - where you were, what you felt. For me, 9/11 was the moment I turned into a person and became aware of the world. A thirst for knowledge grew in me that actually had the effect, often, of isolating me from the rest of the world, a condition out of which a rookery emerged that is considerably responsible for spawning my passion for music. That apart, to this day I think 9/11 is the single defining moment of my life; and the ramifications of the hazard implicit in it, all its chance and randomness, still horrifies me - the consideration that an event that didn't necessarily have to happen could have such a bulldozing effect on a person. It's the reason I don't believe in God. The Sox World Series victory was a far less gravitational event but it did include one personal milestone. The whole thing was actually a surprisingly solitary moment for me. Even though the Sox victory felt fated all year and I expected it, my adrenaline still pumped and I was compelled by Joe Buck's "Back to Foulke...Red Sox fans have longed to hear it..." to sprint down my street to the end and back, faster and more energized than I've ever ran. I came back and watched the post-game ceremonies and interviews. One of the interviews was one Bob Lobel had with Tim Wakefield that made me cry. It was the first time compassion, respect, and joy brought me to tears.
My experience with MPP followed this mold and it is described above. The moment was singular, unlike any other I've had with music - with Radiohead's Kid A, with Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, with Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This album isn't a wave - it's an ocean and I was swimming in it. I still swim in it. And every time I hear it, I have the same reaction as I had the first time I heard it. Maybe one of marijuana's most enchanting properties is its ability to inspire forever-conditioned reactions, for better or worse, after a simple unitary experience. I have the same precise feeling every time I hear the explosion of sound in the middle of "In The Flowers" and I laugh out loud in pure happiness every time I hear the verse that follows it. I do the same at the end of "Summertime Clothes." I feel the same feeling of endearment every time I hear the repeated lines that go "I don't mean to seem like I care about material things like my social status, I just want four walls and adobe slabs for my girls" and throughout all of "Daily Routine" and "Bluish." I picture the same clouds parting to blue sky 3 minutes and 23 seconds through "Daily Routine." I am amazed at the vocal chaos of "Guys Eyes" every time I hear it. I feel the same bewilderment of a band putting their entire sound together in a song in "Lion In a Coma" and I catch myself repeating "Lion in a coma, lion in a coma" at every conclusion of that song. I have the same urge to sing the choruses in "Bluish" and "Taste" like a teenie bopper sings songs by Miley Cyrus or The Jonas Brothers at a concert.
This is a pop album in the most organic sense, composed of classic 1960s-style pop songs, excavated and deconstructed and saturated within a confident panorama of electro-synth ecstasy that traverses centuries of music and sounds like what you might imagine the music would sound like at a party celebrating Pangaea's 4,540,000,000th birthday if Pangaea were still around. Past the modern apparatuses that create the majority of the sonic environment on this album, there is something deeply elemental about it that connects it to everything in the world and makes it feel comfortable and familiar. It is the past and future of pop music all at once. This is an easy, easy, easy listen once you "get" Animal Collective, and I would presume that can occur simply by forcing yourself to listen to the album and without the assistance of any mind-altering state. It is maybe the only album I know of that I'm confident that anybody, no matter their musical dispositions of taste, could learn to love if they let themselves enjoy it. I sincerely hope everybody does.